ETUC demands ‘Trokia’ stop attacks on employment rights

At the meeting of the G20 in Cannes, Bernadette Segol, General Secretary of the European TUC today told  EU leaders end attacks on employment rights by the so called “Trokia” (ie: the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Back and the EU Commission) and demanded the EU to “pull its weight in the G20”.

Ms Segol said the European TUC is extremely concerned about attacks on trade union rights in Europe by the ‘Troika’ who are demanding Governments make major changes to industry wide collective agreements and working practices countries currently facing in difficulties and seeking help from the IMF, ECB and EU Commission – such as Ireland, Greece and Italy.

She also named “opportunistic governments outside the Eurozone” such as in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – who are decimating trade union rights, dismantling collective bargaining structures and deriding social dialogue.

In Hungary for instance unions face the reversal the burden of proof in unfair dismissal cases; removal of protection against dismissal from workers on sick leave or maternity leave; working time will increase and leave will be cut; automatic overtime rates will cease; minimum wages will ‘probably’ disappear and will be possibly set without union involvement; workplace information and consultation rights will be reduced; and the right to be represented by a union in collective bargaining or in court will be restricted. (For more information on the situation in Hungary click here to read Owen Tudor’s blog).

Ms. Segol warned EU leaders that although the G20 in Cannes may not be the setting to discuss internal issues at length, the EU could be sure that unions will not let go.

“There are suggestions that the Treaties may be changed for the new economic governance. In that debate, the ETUC will argue, as we always have, for Europe and against a reversal to national navel gazing. But we must not be taken for granted. The Europe we want is one of solidarity and social progress” she warned.

Setting out the ETUC’s plan to combat austerity she said: “We have called for a new Marshall plan, starting with mutual support within the EU, for example through the issuing of Eurobonds. We oppose protectionism. We don’t want a repeat of the 1930s. We dealt relatively well with the 2008 crisis through Keynesian-type policies. We should not be too pessimistic about our medium to long term future. We are still the biggest market in the world. Many want to invest here and take advantage of our relatively open market, though further training of our workforce and enhanced research and development efforts would of course help. We must foster job-rich growth. Unfortunately, Europe is in danger of being written off as “the sick man of the world”.

She blamed quite rightly the spivs and speculators in Wall Street, the City of London, and elsewhere, who are encouraging instability. “They are making masses of money out of this. They are defying democracy and evading taxes. Income inequalities are rising. European workers’ wages are being depressed. Wages are a motor of the economy. That motor is stalling. We are concerned that a begging bowl is now being passed around – in particular towards countries that do not play the game; that do not accept that there must be a level playing field”.

She described the Chinese assistance for the EU and an “incredible situation when the Chinese People’s Bank can say: “It is in China’s long-term and intrinsic interest to help Europe because they are our biggest trading partner but the chief concern of the Chinese government is how to explain this decision to our own people. The last thing China wants is to throw away the country’s wealth and be seen as just a source of dumb money. And then, they also let us know that we shouldn’t criticise their currency policy! I do wonder when the Chinese authorities ever bothered to explain anything to their own people. I do wonder how a government that massively subsidises its investments and exports and refuses to implement decent labour standards can claim Market Economy Status”.

Meetings took place with President Nicolas Sarkozy, as G20 President, Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman van Rompuy, among others.

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